How I Eat

February 3, 2015

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I have eaten “clean” my whole life. I grew up in the Santa Clara Valley of California, when it was predominated by large family-run farms, and access to fresh fruits and vegetables was a fact of life.  Except for the few years during which my mother bought canned peas—motivated, no doubt, by convenience—everything green on our table was no more than 48 hours from the ground. There were no fast-food spots in my town then, so I didn’t try a Big Mac until, when I was 22 years old, I revealed I’d never had one to a boyfriend while we were out in his car. He promptly hung a U-ey and remedied that.

Later, in the late 1980s, while living in New York and just after I had taken up bird hunting and fly fishing, I decided to try an “Eat What You Kill” diet. I owned a small farm in Connecticut where I raised sheep, goats, and chickens, grew my own vegetables and fruit, and it was close enough to several fish and game preserves that it was possible to shoot pheasant, partridge, and quail, and to fish for trout. Needless to say, when I announced this at the “ideas” meeting at Allure, where I contributed at the time, I became the punch line for many an office joke.

I have always deeply valued the ritual of eating. I think it starts long before you actually sit down to the dinner table, at the moment when you are procuring the food—whether by hunting, gathering, or driving to the grocery store and shopping for it. Cooking is, for me, a meditative process. And setting the table is, for most meals, like preparing for sacrament, even in simple ways like using a linen napkin or a favorite piece of silver flatware to eat a lunchtime salad. So by the time everyone finally sits down to eat at my house, it’s with a hallelujah chorus. During the 2000s, I owned a ranch and vineyard near Santa Barbara, California. I wrote a book about some of the more memorable meals and parties I held there, often paired with wine made from grapes grown on the property.

Fast-forward to the present.

My commitment to CrossFit training meant rethinking my whole way of eating. First, I had to give up alcohol, which I did about 18 months ago (this is neither total abstinence or, necessarily, forever; but since that time I have had about 10 glasses of champagne or tequila on as many occasions). And, since becoming a full-time athlete, I started to appreciate just how closely related what I eat and when I eat it are tied to performance. For the first few weeks, I’d felt weak and depleted, so I ramped up my protein intake. It seemed to help, but maybe the slight uptick I felt was because I was getting used to the intense training days. It seemed like I could get more from my food.

Enter Matthew Walrath. He’s a top athlete (and, like me, an aspiring Games competitor) who trains at my gym and is also a nutrition coach. In his email signature, he identifies himself: “Speaker – Coach – Ball of Energy.”

After I gave him the results from my Resting Metabolic Rate test (RMR), he made me a diet plan (to be shared in a future post). The biggest surprise was learning that I was not eating enough. He recommended four eggs for breakfast. I usually ate one. Oatmeal? I had sworn off it when I jumped on the Paleo bandwagon.

Since starting Matthew’s plan (back in the fall) I have reduced my body fat by 4%, but I have not lost weight—I’ve built muscle.  All I can say about eating this way is that it sure makes pull-ups easier.

 

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